How to deal with authoritarian states?


Five experts respond to Svante E. Cornell’s essay, “How Should America Deal with Authoritarian States?” and discuss the legacy of Jeane Kirkpatrick for policymakers today, The American Interest writes. This is the latest essay in an ongoing series, “The Foreign Policy Debate We Need.” Today: Giselle Donnelly, Michele Dunne, Shadi Hamid, Mark P. Lagon, and Gary J. Schmitt respond to Svante E. Cornell’s essay, “How Should America Deal with Authoritarian States?” Read Cornell’s original essay here.

Cornell proposes to judge how to deal with a government by three criteria: how it treats its population, what ideology motivates it, and its approach to the outside world. But he privileges ideology strongly over the other two criteria, landing him squarely in the very trap that he (and Kirkpatrick before him) identified, notes Dunne, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED):

Rather than using ideological affinity to determine how America should deal with authoritarian governments, I suggest adopting the American diplomat’s simpler idea. The United States is likely to have full, robust, and enduring partnerships only with states that are democracies. Democracies (including our own) have many flaws and will disagree with each other on many issues, but they share the basic assumption that government should be by and for the people. Authoritarian governments operate on completely different and nontransparent premises, making it more difficult to find common ground. With authoritarian states, the United States can have limited, tactical relationships that should vary in strength, warmth, and durability depending on how that state behaves in the world (including, of course, toward the United States) as well as how it treats its citizens. RTWT

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